Washington DC History Resources

Matthew B. Gilmore

The City of Our Hopes and Desires: Zoning Comes to Washington DC

 By Matthew B. Gilmore

For complete article click: http://intowner.com/2016/10/26/the-city-of-our-hopes-and-desires-zoning-comes-to-washington-dc/

 It had a curious beginning. The tale begins with a bit of a mystery: The August 21, 1916 Evening Star reported that Senator Jacob Gallinger (R-NH) had introduced “a bill which would extend to Washington the building regulations adopted by New York city July 25, 1916. Gallinger announced he introduced the bill by request.” His remarks in the August 21st  Congressional Record began, “. . . a gentleman greatly interested in the development of the District of Co lumbia has handed me a bill, requesting that I introduce it.” He continued, “It appears to be framed very largely along the lines of an ordinance of the city of New York. . . . I do not know that I approve of all the provisions of the bill but ask that it be received and referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia.”

With that mysterious introduction Senate Bill 6922 was introduced — explicitly and prolixly titled “To regulate and limit the height and hulk of buildings hereafter erected, and regulating and determining the area of yards, courts, and other open spaces, and regulating and restricting the location of trades and industries and the location of buildings designed for specified uses, and establishing the boundaries of districts for the said purposes in the District of Columbia.” It included three use districts, five height districts, and five area districts. It never emerged from the Committee.


August 21, 1916 Evening Star report announcing the introduction of the first zoning bill for Washington, DC.

Where did it come from? Who gave it to Gallinger? It may have been John Nolen who gave the bill to Gallinger. Nolen was the editor of the just released volume City Planning which compiled the latest thought in urban planning.


For complete article click: http://intowner.com/2016/10/26/the-city-of-our-hopes-and-desires-zoning-comes-to-washington-dc/

On March 1, 1920 the legislation was signed to introduce zoning to Washington — “An Act to regulate the height, area, and use of buildings in the District of Columbia and to create a Zoning Commission and for other purposes.” The new Zoning Commission, was composed of the District Board of Commissioners (Col. Charles W. Kutz and Louis Brownlow) with the addition of the Superintendent of Public Grounds (Col. C.S. Ridley) and the Superintendent of the Capitol (Elliott Woods). It was charged devise the plan in less than six months. Public hearings were required before regulations were to be approved.

In fact, this was no Congressional imposition. The 1920 Commissioners’ annual report noted they had “for a number of years been interested in the subject of zoning, which is now universally regarded one of the essential features of a comprehensive city plan.”


For complete article click: http://intowner.com/2016/10/26/the-city-of-our-hopes-and-desires-zoning-comes-to-washington-dc/


1936 Zoning Use District map published by Rufus S. Lusk.

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